As it happens, sometimes films with a seemingly stereotypical and familiar plot pleasantly surprise us with their innovation and creative freshness. This is why we chose to give the FIPRESCI prize at this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival to the romantic drama Falling Into Place. This is the directorial debut of Aylin Tezel who also wrote the screenplay and stars in this enchanting film, set in Scotland and London. Falling into Place follows the story of Kira and Ian, both in their 30s, who are spending a wintery weekend getaway in the Isle of Skye. As the evening wears on, they catch sight of one another across the bar, and then something extraordinary happens: for a fleeting moment they feel an incredible, unexpectedly profound, romantic connection. Something as real and exciting as meeting someone you’ve known your entire life. Everything appears doable, simple, enjoyable, and light. But in the morning reality sets in and fears return. Unaware that they both reside in London, Kira and Ian go back to their regular lives. They both yearn to reconnect, but the complications in their own lives, and their trepidation of making the leap keep them away despite the memory of the haunting night.
It is a story already seen in various shapes in different romantic dramas, but Aylin Tezel makes it wonderfully different, rethinking the narrative structure of the genre, enveloping it in fresh and flowing cinematic language and creating a portrait of an enchanting heroine that remains in memory for a long time. Featuring clever dialogues and undeniable chemistry between the two leads, the film masterfully addresses the inner problems of commitment, vulnerability, and the desire for self-improvement, which are highly relatable to all generations. Aylin Tezel (one of Germany’s leading young actors, but less known outside Germany) has succeeded in making a movie that will inspire warmth and hope for love in the viewer. It is not simply about the love between two people, it is also about the hopes and fears of an entire generation.
Another outstanding movie in the first feature competition is also a version of a familiar narrative about a father and son broken relationship, but it is told in a very innovative and captivating way. Edgar de Luque Jácome’s The Fisherman’s Daughter (La estrategia del mero) follows the story of the lonely fisherman Samuel, who lives on a remote island in the Caribbean, and free-dives to capture his prey. It is an outdated job since most of the island’s inhabitants have moved to the mainland to pursue an easier life. One day his daughter Priscila pays Samuel an unexpected visit. He immediately rejects her because from his point of view he had a son who moved to the mainland and transformed into a trans-woman. Priscilla appears so unannounced that it’s obvious she’s looking for somewhere to hide (we will later learn that she killed a policeman). Grudgingly, Samuel lets her stay, but he keeps his distance. Forced to accept his daughter’s care, following an accident, Samuel finally stands by her when one of the fishermen tries to blackmail her.
From the very beginning, we are taken with the clash between the visually mesmerizing, seemingly tranquil, crystal Caribbean Sea and the ruthless struggle on both sides – first Samuel’s struggle with the tough fisherman’s life and then the family struggle. Despite the bitterness and acrimony of the events, the film is a poetic journey through different layers of meaning – from an effort to be accepted to the reconciliation with nature and with the dissimilar nature of one’s only son. The cinematography is meticulously envisioned, pointing out similarities between the narrative and poetic experience. A serenely lovely underwater scene, with a touch of solemnity, marks the end of the movie. Father and daughter, two fragile personalities, swim as smoothly as the water creatures underneath them, lost together in the vastness of the sumptuously lit ocean. It’s a splendid ending for a compassionate movie about acceptance and recognition.
Edited by Yael Shuv
© FIPRESCI 2023